Edible San Luis Obispo — Winter 2013
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Fork in the Road
By Jamie Relth

Sweet, Suite Edna

Slower-than-SLO getaway offers treats for eyes and palate

Anyone can appreciate the sanctity of a secret hideaway where, just as Dorothy sang it, "troubles melt like lemon drops" and skies are blue. It may not be Oz, but for a moment (or several weeks) of sweet serenity, there is nothing quite like a visit to enchanting Edna, population 193, to soothe and sate the soul.

Just a hop, skip and jump away from downtown San Luis Obispo, the emerald vineyards of the thriving Edna Valley American Viticulture Area and its namesake town appear with lulling, vine-view twists and bends as busy Broad Street turns into scenic Highway 227. And, to take the Wizard of Oz metaphor a step further, the first to greet approaching guests is none other than a tall, tin sentry known as Old Edna. The over-100-year-old metal building, which today houses Sextant Winery's tasting room and gourmet deli, serves as the hub of Edna's wine country and entryway to the truly magical two-acre Old Edna Townsite.

Tiny though it may be, the site comprises the sizeable three-room Suite Edna Guesthouse as well as a veritable wonderland of other unique antique edifices, lovingly restored by owner and self-proclaimed "mayor" Pattea Torrence. So, when the car eases off of the blacktop and onto Old Edna's gravelly dirt path, there is a sense of having arrived at an entire world apart, with ample space for the feet and imagination to ramble and rove. Torrence's loving and careful renovation, complete with signature vintage accents and décor, pay homage to the plot's rich history – harkening back to the days when it was a saloon, mercantile and even a dance hall – while also inviting the modern-day visitor to meander and indulge in contemporary luxuries and quaint farmhouse charms.

There is the fantastical Kienun's Treehouse, visible from Sextant's tasting room, whose rough edges and hand-scrawled sign conjure up childhood dreams in an instant. The dream continues as the path winds past a fairytale-evoking gypsy wagon painted bright pink and yellow and adorned with smiling rabbits, and then by a small A-frame building called Alma's Place, whose French doors beckon the spirit to snuggle up – preferably with a cup of coffee and a good book – and enjoy the peaceful view of overhanging willow trees, roses and the occasional roaming hen.

This is just the start of the somnambulant scene that is Suite Edna. The sinuous trail wanders by well-endowed apple trees to the hedge-hidden and newly renovated Desolina's Place (a one-room, one-bathroom cabin that Torrence plans to offer as a honeymooners' house), beside a large hen house and a quaint wine-barrel container garden of herbs, vegetables and nuts, to the back of the plot where the proud, squat and picture-perfect Blue Belly Barn stands, just as it has since 1897. A gathering of blithe Nubian goats greets guests in the front of the richly patina-painted wooden barn, offering entertainment, and soon, Old Edna's own artisan cheese, while the building's namesake lizards may also be seen from time to time.

Sprawled across the center of this seemingly endless string of sideshow buildings – each a delight in its own right, and most available to rent for private events – is the suite itself: a light-yellow, three-bedroom, one-bathroom guesthouse with white trim. Providing guests the chance to truly unwind, it features wide, antique-light-bulb-lit lawns, a free-standing breakfast cottage and plush and artfully shabby-chic interiors.

To the foodie's delight, a generous country-house kitchen inspires farm-fresh cooked meals and gatherings, while overstuffed couches, claw-foot tubs, featherbeds and wraparound decks speak to the luxurious relaxation to be had by vacationers. Paisley, gingham and lace accents overlay a canvas of buttermilk-white craftsman furniture, fashioning a distinctly sweet country motif in this outpost of simpler times, while large cottage windows overlook the historic MacGregor Vineyard, from which Sextant Winery makes some of its wines.

Torrence, a host aptly as charming and warm as the environment she has created, says the townsite has fed all of her passions: history, hosting, catering, interior design and restoration. Thanks to her vision and devotion, Old Edna also feeds the imagination and spirit of any weary soul who visits. And with wine country destinations sprawling in every direction, and an onsite tasting room and deli providing fresh espresso drinks and delectable provisions, we're betting you won't want to click your heels anytime soon.

Writer Jamie Relth's work has taken her to castles, islands, hot springs and countless restaurants and wineries. Whatever the topic, she is constantly inspired by the stories uncovered in the process of writing. Aside from work, her adventures include swimming, yoga, running and hiking the hills of SLO with her trusty dog by her side.

Edna-Inspired Wine Country Picnic Recipe Provided by Sextant Winery Gourmet Deli

SEXTANT POACHED PEAR

This savory poached pear recipe is a perfect dessert option that can also be stowed away as a "fancy" picnic dish. The recipe maximizes the pear's natural sweetness, combining it with the fruit-forward Sextant Late Harvest Zinfandel and highlighting both with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla.

1 1/2 cups Sextant Late Harvest Zinfandel
2 tablespoons lemon juice (can also add lemon zest if desired)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4–6 pears (recommend Bosc or Anjou), peeled, cored and sliced
For garnish: mascarpone, crème fraîche, Devonshire cream or fresh vanilla ice cream; cocoa powder or cinnamon powder; mint leaves

Combine all ingredients, except pears, and bring to a boil. Once the wine mixture is boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and add the pears. Simmer pears for 10–12 minutes and then turn pears and simmer for an additional 8–10 minutes, until they are tender and are easily poked through with a fork. Remove pears and let them cool. Boil wine sauce until the liquid has been reduced by half.

Either serve each pear whole or cut in half. Drizzle sauce over pears and serve with mascarpone, crème fraîche, Devonshire cream or fresh vanilla ice cream. Dust lightly with cocoa powder or cinnamon powder. Garnish with a mint leaf.

Sweet Spots to Taste & Picnic

Chart New Territory – Sextant Wines Sextant Wines, named after the marine navigating instrument, will set picnickers on the right path with its tasting room (inside the Old Edna building) and newer-on-the-block gourmet deli. An ideal start to navigating Edna Valley wine country, begin here with a taste of their flagship Wheelhouse Zinfandel, and an order of one of their unique menu items. Or, order a boxed lunch ahead of time to take on tasting adventures.

Stop to Smell the Roses – Wolff Winery Sublimely perched atop a hill overlooking the panorama of surrounding acres of vineyard rows and out to the Seven Sisters chain of ancient volcanoes, charming, family-operated Wolff Winery is a prime picnic spot. The lovely rose garden tasting area outside the tasting bar offers the opportunity to sip, snack and soak up the grandness of little Edna. Stop also to pet one of their wine dogs, often hanging out on the deck, and be sure to taste their peppery Petite Sirah and the red named after black Lab, Brixie.

Bocce & Bacchus – Baileyana Winery The quaint yellow schoolhouse building that serves as Baileyana's tasting room dovetails nicely with the unique tour of architecture found at Old Edna. The winery also offers a vast grassy area, picnic tables and bocce ball fields, making it a prime stop for a picnic. Be sure to taste their Brut Rosé for a sparkling treat and the delicious Trenza red. The schoolhouse also offers picnic essentials such as cheeses, charcuterie, glassware, wine openers and an endless array of cute, wine-themed cookware and house decorations.
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